March 30, 2017

Post by: Alexis Oliver Williams, MPA

VISTA AmeriCorps


Adolescence, Autism and Anxiety…oh, my!


I am thankful to serve as a VISTA AmeriCorps member. My year of service enables me to not only help my community but to learn more about my area and how to be a better-informed member of society. In the first few weeks of my year of service, I completed my Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) Blend, which provided a proper introduction into my VISTA AmeriCorps experience. I was particularly impressed with the PSO Blend and its lessons. Moreover, the weekly assignment that was the most pivotal to me was the “13 Lessons about Poverty” by Dr. Stephen Pimpare, author of “A People's History of Poverty in America.”




The 13 lessons about poverty are based on the following principles: (1) homelessness is common; (2) poverty versus insecurity; (3) childhood poverty is toxic; (4) the effect of geography; (5) impact of history; (6) Caregiving; (7) persistent poverty is a disability problem; (8) hard work is not enough; (9) health policy is a poverty policy; (10) prison leads to poverty ∞ poverty leads to prison; (11) climate change is a poverty problem; (12) programs like Social Security, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and earned income tax credit can reduce poverty; and (13) the war on poverty did not fail. The assignment was so informative and helped me to really understand the dynamics of homelessness.


Of the 13 lessons about poverty, lesson six resonated the most with me, based on my own personal life experience. I have a 13-year-old daughter with Autism and anxiety.  Her name is Alexia Sidney. Though caring for my daughter and managing her autism have been the joy of my life, it has also been the most challenging and selfless. It was extremely difficult to secure gainful employment and to maintain a professional career due to my daughter’s many doctor (i.e. medical, behavioral health, psychological and psychiatry) appointments, therapy sessions (i.e. speech, occupational and applied behavioral analysis), and endless meetings with her teachers to discuss her individualized educational plans (IEPs). Regardless of my extensive work experience and multiple professional degrees, my resume began to resemble a jigsaw puzzle due to gaps in my employment. Oftentimes, I had to resign from a position due to it not being compatible with my daughter’s complex medical needs. We are also a military family and relocated often.


Though it was a financial and emotional strain on our family, I become a stay-at-home mother. I am humbled and grateful to be an Autism Mom. I volunteered at my daughter’s school and with non-profit organizations for special needs, learned the alphabet soup of the Autism acronyms, and offered counsel to parents of newly diagnosed children. I did not realize it at the time, but I was laying the foundation to be an educated advocate for my daughter. I began to document my triumphs and trials associated with my daughter’s autism on social media as a way to communicate with my family. I did not know how therapeutic it would be for me and inspirational for others.


My daughter is a healthy, intelligent, and beautiful young lady. Alexia has participated in several mainstream activities such as school plays and fashion shows, has won medals in bowling, basketball, track & field, volleyball, and swimming in the Special Olympics Texas, and volunteers in our community. She has always had A/B honor roll and is currently in 7th-grade mainstream and Adaptive Education (AE) classes. She is a great big sister to her seven-year-old brother, loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and is an active member of society.


Who knew that I would actually use my graduate degree, not for my career goals or monetary gains, but in order to be an excellent communicator, activist, and organizer for my child? My acceptance of Alexia’s adolescence, autism, and anxiety is the apex of my amazing acclaim and adorn.